At about 11 p.m. last night, the Cornell Democrats — about 60 of them assembled in Chloe McDougal’s ’09 living room — grew hushed. Republican Ray Meier, Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri’s opponent in the race for the 24th N.Y. Congressional district, was conceding the election.
Mitch Fagen ’07 broke the silence: “It’s time for the champagne!”
“Enjoy what Bush has to say tomorrow, because he’s not going to know what … to do with himself,” said Andrew Tyler, Arcuri’s regional field director in Tompkins County, who showed up at about 11:15 to congratulate the troops.
“54 percent to 45 percent is an ass-kicking!” Tyler exulted. “Especially in a district where there are 45,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. … This happened because of people like you all over the district. Seventy-five percent of the work got done by people under 23.”
The Cornell Democrats were already talking about calling Arcuri for internships in his Capitol Hill office this summer. They were chanting the names of Shai Akabas ’09 and Ethan Felder ’09, who have led Cornell students in weekly canvassing, phonebanking and fundraising for Arcuri since the beginning of the semester.
“These two kids were the Mike Arcuri campaign in Tompkins County before any of us guys got here,” Tyler said.
Yesterday, the Democrats turned out more than 50 volunteers to work the phones and hold signs for Arcuri at the United Auto Workers headquarters downtown.
“We had more people than they could handle,” Felder said. “They had to have people go and do visibility just to give them something to do — and it really shows that people really care this year.”
“Just think — people our age, the last time we saw a Democratic victory nationally was ’96. We were ten years old,” he said.
Elie Bilmes ’10 volunteered for 11 hours yesterday at UAW downtown. “People like us in every district on the ground putting in their time — that’s what’s going to take back the House,” he said last night.
“There’s been a lot of time canvassing at the expense of partying and studying,” Felder said.
Earlier in the night, when it was all over but the shouting, the atmosphere in the apartment was nonetheless jubilant.
One student, who wore a tee shirt that said, “Santorum: That’s Latin for asshole,” turned to a friend amid toasts.
“Are you double-fisting?” he said.
“Yeah, I’m bi-cameral.” The room broke out in hoots.
“Everybody smile and say, take back Congress!” Flashbulbs erupted.
The raucous crowd, at turns, booed at Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) during his concession speech, cheered wildly for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and shushed each other when Charlie Cook, the highly regarded non-partisan political handicapper, came onscreen. Students shouted into cell phones about results in home states where they had worked on campaigns this past summer. Red, white and blue balloons made their way over the heads of the crowd like beach balls at a baseball game. Cheers went up each time another House seat was called for the Democrats and Chris Matthews, the MSNBC talking head, delved deeper into strained metaphors.
“The Republicans are looking for the pony in the manure pile right now,” he said. Another time: “The elephant in the room — or should we say the donkey.”
“This goes far beyond what anybody was expecting,” Fagen said. “I think the country is fed up with the Republicans and the election shows they’re fed up with their lies and their corruption and that’s why it’s a major landslide victory for the Democrats.”
At about 11:15 p.m., CNN’s Wolf Blitzer called the House for the Democrats and a whoop went up from the crowd.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” McDougal said.